Ruack-Chauv was hardly the worst holiday on Ravnica. The Rakdos festivals had much higher death tolls on average (mostly because of their unpredictability), and the parades that the various Simic Clades held every few months were much, much stranger.
It was, however, easily the most chaotic day of the year, and that alone should have made it Lavinia’s least favorite annual occasion.
And yet, she found something indescribably peaceful about walking among the (mostly Gruul and gateless) population as they went about their (at least for today, per ordinance 451.23.7) Guildpact-approved mayhem and mischief. Of course she had to intervene if any citizen took the holiday of destruction too far, endangering the lives or livelihood of their neighbors, but she was otherwise content to watch the city let off a little steam.
Rauck-chauv wasn’t so bad.
A trio of children ran in front of her, kicking an Orzhov guard’s helmet down the street like a ball, passing it between one another and laughing. The lead child, a goblin, had a Gruul signet emblazoned on the back of his overalls in a substance Lavinia didn’t care to consider. The Orzhov in question was struggling after them, puffing and cursing.
“Enjoying the vulgarities, arrester?”
Lavinia spun around. There, leaning up against the mouth of an alleyway she had just passed, a figure in red-and-black armor grinned, eyes glittering from behind a closed helmet.
“Exava.” Lavinia nodded, composed despite the sudden hammering of her heart.
The blood witch peeled off the wall and strode after Lavinia, the blades on her belt rattling. “You should come to the undercity if you want to see a real party. I’m headlining the revue in two days. I think you’d enjoy it.”
“I’ll pass. The last time you invited me to a show I spent a rare night off confiscating knives and recreational teardrops.”
“No one forced you to be a killjoy.”
“Well…I’d rather not spoil another one of your shows.” Lavinia increased her stride. There was a good deal of shouting and cheering up ahead, which could be trouble.
“Come on, arrester.” Exava tapped Lavinia’s breastplate. “I know you’re happy to see me.”
Lavinia pursed her lips. Normally she’d be duty-bound to arrest a blood-witch on sight, but days of celebration always came with relaxed rules, much to some arrester’s consternation. Still, if Exava did anything egregiously criminal…
“Not planning any mischief, are you?”
“Nah.” Exava shrugged, stretching her arms out above her head. “This is the Gruul’s party, and not even a good one. I still can’t believe how badly you boot-lickers have watered this shindig down over the years. Me, I’m just here to enjoy myself.”
“Then we’re fine here.” Lavinia pretended to scan the street, turning away so Exava wouldn’t see her smile.
They stepped off Tin Street into one of the larger plazas. Sunlight streamed over the stones, which were coated with a thin layer of different-colored stains. The biggest food-fight Lavinia had ever seen was underway, with carts of stale rolls, overripe fruits, and other foodstuffs lined the perimeter of the plaza. Citizens ran back and forth from them, laughing and shouting.
“Ah, that sunshine!” Exava pulled off her helmet and shook her hair free, deftly dodging an airborne tomato as she did so. A mess of tight curls rolled out over her dark shoulders, glistening with sweat. Almost like stars, Lavinia thought, before realizing she was staring and turned away.
“You don’t have any tan lines. You must not get out of the undercity much these days.”
Exava stuck her tongue out “Always on alert, aren’t you? I do have other clothes, Lav’. Sometimes a blood-witch has errands she needs to run by herself.”
Lavinia stared at her, deadpan. “You’re dressed for a fight now.”
“It is Rauck-Chauv,” Exava replied with a shrug. “If some reckless citizen wants to use the holiday as an excuse to tangle with me they should know what they’re getting into.”
As if on cue, a small group of children began to sneak up behind them, their arms full of bruised peaches. Lavinia watched them out of the corner of her eye; a lot of the younger ones here looked a bit malnourished, and were doing equal amounts of eating and fighting, despite the quality of the foodstuff.
The children had gotten within five feet when Exava spun around, spreading her arms wide and making a face, her tongue stuck out and eyes wide. The children shrieked with laughter. Half of them ran, and the rest started tossing peaches. Exava snatched one out of the air and took an exaggerated bite out of it, letting the pulp drip out the side of her mouth as she continued to shriek and make faces.
The children scampered away to get more food, all but one little viashino girl, who was looking around the crowd, crying.
“Are you hurt?” Lavinia knelt next to her.
The viashino sniffed. “Can’t find my brother.”
Lavinia nodded. “Come with me.” She offered her hand and the little girl took it, cautiously. “What does your brother look like? We’ll find him.”
They walked through the melee, dodging food and the crowd. Lavinia kept a sharp eye out for the girl’s brother while Exava kept the little viashino distracted with impressions of the guild leaders. That at least got the little one laughing long enough for them to find her brother, a larger viashino boy wearing Gruul paints along his face and neck.
“Talael! The viashino girl ran to her brother and embraced them closely. The brother regarded Lavinia warily, but thanked her all the same.
“Watch her more carefully.” Lavinia patted the girl on the head. Then she slipped a coin into the brother’s hand. “And get yourselves both something proper to eat.”
“You know, you might be the only arrester in this place worth having around,” Exava cooed at her as they walked away. “You really ought to leave that band of thugs. I hear the gateless are organizing their own protectors of the people these days. I’m sure they need competent people. And it would be nice to see that face of yours away from babysitting duty more often.”
“Guarding the Guildpact is an important part of the job,” Lavinia replied.
When he isn’t gallivanting off Azor-knows-where. Not that she minded. It was an excuse to get out.
Lavinia felt another tug at her hand. Exava had intertwined her own fingers with Lavinia’s, and was giving her a small smirk.
“Arrester, I find myself quite lost as well. Can you help me find my mommy?”
Lavinia rolled her eyes, but couldn’t hide her smile this time. She gave the blood-witch’s hand a covert squeeze. There were a few other arresters patrolling the edge of the plaza who might see them, but she decided she didn’t much care just then.
“Maybe…” She considered her words carefully. “…well, my patrol ends in two hours. Would you like to get something to eat? Before the day’s over?”
“Oh, are you hungry?” Exava seemed oddly delighted at the prospect.
“Well, not this second, but-”
The rest of her sentence was cut off by a custard-filled pastry shoved into her cheek. Lavinia laughed and grabbed Exava’s other hand as she tried to smash a tomato on her breastplate.
They broke apart, and Exava started scooping up bits of mashed banana. Lavinia ran to a nearby cart, and they started pelting each other and everyone else who came near with fruit. Despite herself, Lavinia laughed, louder than she could remember doing so lately.
Rauck-Chauv wasn’t so bad.